You can certainly get a teaching job with an online TEFL certificate. In fact, you can probably get a teaching job without any kind of qualifications or experience whatsoever. The real question is, can you get a quality teaching job with good pay and comfortable working conditions with an online certificate? The answer is still YES, if you make sure you sign up for the best quality online course you can find.
The main problem for online trainees is the obvious lack of any practical teaching experience. If you can afford a month-long in-class training course that includes multiple hours of teaching practice in a real classroom, you will be able to apply for a wider range of jobs in most parts of the world. If you choose the cheaper online option, you will find that you will be more restricted in your job options until you have some classroom experience under your belt.
Where are online certificates most acceptable?
The requirements set by teaching employers vary in different parts of the world. In Europe and the Middle East, schools are more likely to have higher expectations, so applicants with online TEFL certificates and no experience are more likely to be put to the bottom of the pile. Similarly, more prestigious schools in all parts of the world might well expect their applicants to have completed some in-class training or have previous teaching experience.
On the other hand, many employers in Asia and Latin America are less concerned about previous experience or whether your course was completed online or in-class. With some exceptions, the major English teaching markets in Asia, including China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan have no specific preference of either an in-class or online TEFL certificate.
Will any online TEFL course do?
As with most things in life, you usually get what you pay for. Online TEFL courses come in all shapes and sizes, but the more expensive ones will often provide better standards of training. At first glance, all the courses you look at might seem the same, but under the surface they will not be. Typically, the cheaper courses will consist of reading through some text and then answering a few multiple choice questions. While that might seem easy enough, the problem is it will be very boring, you will struggle to remember much of it, and it is unlikely to help you much when you step into your first classroom full of students.
What should I look for in an online TEFL course?
You should look for one that teaches you some of the skills and knowledge you need to actually stand in front of a class and deliver a lesson. Many of the better online courses provide video lessons that allow you to watch real teachers in action. You also need to know how to plan a lesson and this is often ignored by cheaper courses. Stepping into a class full of hormonal teenagers or stressed out business executives without a well constructed lesson plan is not an experience you want to have. Another important aspect of a good online course is feedback from a tutor. Better quality courses will have online tutors who will give you an idea of your strengths and weaknesses and give you invaluable tips and advice on all aspects of English language teaching.
Is an in-class TEFL course a better option?
It really depends on your individual plans. If you are planning a short trip with a bit of teaching here and there, then an online course is probably fine for you. If you have previous teaching experience or plan to volunteer teach, the online option should also be perfectly adequate. Equally, if you intend to teach in a country such as China or South Korea and the recruitment companies don’t require any experience or classroom training, then once again an online course is probably OK. However, in any of these situations you will be much better prepared to step into the classroom if your chosen online course is a good quality product that includes teaching videos, lesson planning strategies, and feedback from experienced tutors.
If you plan to teach seriously for more than just a short time and you want to earn the best salaries, you might want to consider an in-class TEFL course. Yes, the cost of a good course can be as much as $1,500 for four weeks of intensive training, but when you put it into context of what you stand to gain it will probably prove to be a sound investment. The best teaching jobs in the Middle East, for example, pay up to $4,000 per month and you won’t land one of those with a 60-hour online course. Another major consideration is that by taking a TEFL course in the country where you intend to work you will have a huge advantage in the job market thanks to the local knowledge of the school staff and simply being instantly available for interviews in person.